Berlin, Nevada, is the featured ghostly place of this month’s edition of Ghost Town Trails. Like last month’s entry of Rhyolite, NV, it is a great stop for snowbirds heading south for the winter. A paved road takes you most of the way to the old townsite, plus there is an onsite campground for those that dare spend the night.
Berlin, Nevada, is contained within the Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park. It not only contains the remnants of the 1890s mining town, along with the campground mentioned above, but also the most abundant concentration and largest known fossil remains of Ichthyosaurs, an ancient marine reptile.
One thing I like about ghost towns within state parks (Bodie, CA, and Bannack, MT, to name a couple) is they are typically preserved in a state of arrested decay. This low maintenance approach allows today’s and future visitors to safely enjoy the structures as they were decades ago. In other words, they are not gussied up and turned into gawdy tourist attractions, as you will find in “ghost towns” like Virginia City (MT or NV) or Tombstone, AZ, for example. It also provides some protection from those that would desecrate these historic sites or loot them for their rustic building materials or relics, such as the 1918 Dodge Brothers truck found in Berlin, NV.
Berlin, Nevada, was established in 1897 as part of the Union Mining District after the opening of the Berlin Mine the previous year. The name is a transfer from Berlin, in Germany, the native land of a share of the local prospectors. The town never prospered to the same extent as other boom towns like Tonopah and Goldfield, and declined following the Panic of 1907. The town was largely abandoned by 1911. The site was acquired by the state of Nevada as part of Berlin–Ichthyosaur State Park in 1970.
The town is on the western side of the Shoshone Range on the edge of Toiyabe National Forest at an elevation of about 6,676 feet (2,035 m) above sea level. At elevations above the townsite, the forest becomes more dense and provided a source of building materials for the town. The town is arranged in a U shape, opening to the east. At its peak, the town had about 75 buildings and 300 residents. Berlin was a company town, operated by the Nevada Company. It was maintained until its acquisition by the state in 1970. This accounts for the town’s excellent state of preservation.
The town of Union, one mile (1.6 km) to the east, functioned as a suburb to Berlin. The Berlin Mine had three miles (4.8 km) of tunnels but produced less than $1 million worth of gold and silver during its lifetime. The Diana Mine connects to the Berlin Mine at the fourth level and is preserved as a mining museum. Tours of the Diana Mine were halted in 2007 until a safety review could be completed.
The preserved buildings in Berlin include the mine supervisor’s house, now the park office, the assay office and a machine shop. The 30-stamp mill, one of the best of its type in the state, has been stabilized.
The town was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971.
Thanks to the folks at Wikipedia for this concise history of Berlin, Nevada.
My wife and I visited Berlin late in October on our way home from warmer points south. Since the park is “Always Open,” according to the parks website, we didn’t worry about it being closed for the season or being forced to leave due to early fall sunsets. Given it was late October and the town is located at nearly 7,000 feet elevation, we didn’t encounter any lingering summer tourists wearing shorts and flip flops. This meant we had the whole place to ourselves. In my opinion, that is the best way to visit ghost towns. It allows you to visualize how things once were, connect with the past and listen to the wind as it carries the voices of past residents who are interred nearby.
Since we were making tracks home to beat the weather, we opted to drop our travel trailer at the junction of Hwy 316 and Hwy 844 which leads to Berlin, Nevada. We continued to the ghost town with just our tow vehicle. With the early sunset that time of year, it allowed us to return to our travel trailer late in the day and continue our trek north, logging additional miles during the dark evening hours.
After dropping the trailer, we headed east towards Berlin on paved Hwy 844. We spotted the remains of the deserted town situated low on the far hillside miles before arriving. Soon we were greeted by a sign letting us know we had arrived at the outskirts of Berlin, Nevada.
Town was void of people
As mentioned above, the town was void of people, including park rangers. We dropped our entry fees into the pay slot and proceeded to explore and soak in the past. Interpretive signs throughout the town provided a history lesson of the site along with identifying the structures.
One of the more impressive sites was the remains of the mill, which contained a good portion of the original machinery including some of the 30 stamp mills. While the mine openings were grated, preventing us from exploring within, you could still get a good look inside through the bars with a strong flashlight. Ore cars and hoists still on site made it easy to visualize how the mine operated in its heyday.
Most interesting relic
By far the most interesting relic remaining is the 1918 Dodge Brothers truck still sporting the Dodge Brothers emblem below the radiator cap. I couldn’t resist jumping in the cab and manning the controls. Had this been in an unprotected site, the truck would have been looted years ago, if not used for target practice. Enjoying relics like this is one reason I am happy to pay a nominal admission fee when visiting authentic ghost towns.
Next, we paid a visit to the other half of the state park, which features the ancient extinct marine reptiles known as Ichthyosaurs (Ancient Greek for “fish lizard). The interpretive center operates on a very limited schedule, so we were unable to enter. However, exterior exhibits provided plenty of information, including demonstrating the scale of these extinct creatures. Suffice it to say, these creatures were big! Finally, we did a drive-through review of the campground in the event we want to camp there among the ghosts at a future date.
Berlin, Nevada – Getting there
From the intersection of Hwy 361 and Hwy 844 (located approximately 2 miles north of Gabbs, NV) turn east on Hwy 844. Continue east on Hwy 844 for 16.4 miles to the intersection of Berlin Rd. Turn right onto Berlin Rd and in 2 miles you will reach the ghost town of Berlin, Nevada. (Note: The pavement ends where Hwy 844 intersects with Berlin Rd). There is a $5 vehicle entry fee to enter the park, $10 for non-Nevada-registered vehicles.
As noted, there is a large area to the west of the intersection of Hwy 361 and Hwy 844 to drop an RV if you want to proceed to Berlin in your tow vehicle or dinghy.
As mentioned, the state park does offer a campground. Here are the details via their website:
Campground: The park contains 14 well-spaced units (open year-round), some suitable for RVs up to 25 feet, with fire rings, BBQ grills, covered tables, drinking water (typically available from mid-April through the end of October) and restrooms nearby. An RV dump station is also available. Camping is limited to 14 days in a 30-day period. Camping fees: $15.00 per vehicle, per night (Non-NV Vehicles: $20.00 per vehicle, per night).
Boondocking: The route between Hwy 161 and Berlin, Nevada, runs across BLM and USFS land. Both agencies allow dispersed camping along the road to Berlin. Just about any side road will provide a multitude of boondocking opportunities. Click here to learn more about the opportunities of free camping in public land.
RV parks: There are no RV parks in the immediate vicinity of Berlin.
Past installments of Ghost Town Trails you may enjoy:
- Ruby, AZ – Southern Arizona’s ‘best-preserved’ ghost town
- Rhyolite, Nevada – An easy ghost town for RVers to visit
- Deadwood Mine, Idaho and its mysterious vault
- Eureka, Utah – Visit easily accessible old mining town
- Silver City, Utah – Heartbreak and thanksgiving
- Fort Macomb, LA – Does this picturesque Civil War-are fort look familiar
- Castle Dome City, Arizona – Perfect for nearby snowbirds
- Fort Selkirk, Yukon Territory
- Coolidge, MT – ‘Montana’s Mystery Camp‘
- Ballarat, California
- Greenhorn, OR – Oregon’s smallest incorporated city
- Elkhorn, Montana – The cover photo of popular “Ghost Towns of the West” book
- Tunnel Camp, Nevada
- Bonnie Claire, Nevada
- Tumco, California
- Mackay’s Mine Hill, Mackay, Idaho